Heat Lightning

This is weird, but my first Taxol (IV chemo) treatment spurred me to go write another fucking poem. . . Go figure.

Heat Lightning

Practical Taxol will grin you a pin

Pine needles off the forest floor to flood your intimate unfoldings

A swarm of ants rushing your pants

And not the good kind either

You reach down to make sure they are in fact all in your head

But then your head is where it all is

The narrative you’ve chosen

The story you tell

The way you assemble a lineage from random points in space.

For example:

The tapping of the Taxol pump is so like the insistent slurping of your breast pump of yore.

I want MILK, I want MILK cried the breast pump

FUCK you FUCK you FUCK you admonishes the Taxol

You need to align these runes, dissonant and distant though they may be—

all incantations.

For example:

The fool-making fatigue of cancer treatment

Turning you into a bum

A bag lady who wears shmates and shuffles about outside;

Isn’t this you the same one who dragged her feet

staggering behind two toddlers at the playground,

blithely allowing one of them to eat his weight in woodchips?

Surrounded by nurses in protective ponchos and goggles

Whether in the bright steel c-section operating theater

or the gray scale chemo suite

The moment when you feel something has gone wrong. Not a little wrong, but WRONG, alarm bell red wrong your breath catches and holds on, unable to work by itself, you have to tell it In, Out, In, Out or it will stop altogether

You feel your pulse in your groin and abdomen

Your body contracts and wants to retch and you know you cannot, must not be here.

In that moment you become not-you, something extra, something made of energy, made of the bright desperation of past and future.

For Example: When your grandmother opened the shawl where she had lovingly tucked in the baby for the long sled ride through the snow, away from the pogroms, and found him suffocated

For Example: When your mother sat beside a man on the bus who began to masturbate, trapping her in the corner seat, left to pretend she wasn’t seeing what she was seeing

For Example: When your mother pretended not to see what she was seeing as your uncle stroked your calves in the backseat of his car

The need to be not-there transmogrifies you, rebirths you as a sweaty, burnt-smelling electric charge.

It happened in the moment when your fever and pain crashed together and your oncologist shouted “IT’S METASTATIC BREAST CANCER!” down the phone into your unbelieving ear as if you were a developmentally disabled person who had won the lottery. “ARE YOU SHOCKED?”

Not when your child calls you in the hospital, and then calls back less than a minute later, and his otherwise empathic younger brother makes fun of him. Not then.

But it happens the moment when that cool cat breaks down in sobs and admits that he called back because he thought it could be the last time he talks to you.

It happened sometimes watching roiling thunderstorms from nana’s safe enclosed porch. Your mother called it “heat lightening.” Rain pulsing in through the screen doors, scattering shattering lightning daring us to go out. Daring us to become a moment, a charge, something not quite there and then truly gone.

#poetry #death #kids #cancer

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